How to Choose the Best Dog Collar

By: Jill Jones

Part of the fun of adopting a new dog is choosing all the supplies and equipment that will ease his transition into your household and cement his status as a beloved member of the family. There is so much cool stuff you can buy: adorable sweaters and jackets, comfy beds, monogrammed food bowls, etc., it is a bit overwhelming. In particular, when it comes to figuring out what may be the most important item—the best dog collar—owners are faced with a bewildering array of choices.

Choosing the best dog collar involves balancing your dog’s comfort with your need to keep him safe, secure, and—let’s admit it—dapper looking. At first glance, it may seem that all dog collars are essentially the same, though made of varying materials, such as nylon and leather, with slightly different designs. However, a close look at a collar’s construction reveals enormous variation in quality, which will make a big impact on its functionality and durability over the long run. It’s also important to consider how the collar’s particular features will benefit you and your dog.

Comfort

For starters, the collar must be comfortable or your dog will drive himself (and you) crazy trying to get it off. Fit is of course the most important comfort factor; you want to make sure the collar is the right length for the circumference of his neck. A common rule of thumb for determining the appropriate length is to measure your dog’s neck and add two inches.

The collar’s construction affects its comfort as well. It should lie flat around your dog’s neck, including the buckle, so that it doesn’t rub or create any pressure points. If you have a small puppy or small breed, the collar should be as lightweight as possible. Many puppies object to collars at first, so the lighter the better until he gets used to it. Dog collars are available in sizes ranging from extra small to extra large; not only are the smaller sizes shorter in length, they’re more narrow as well, making them less objectionable to small dogs and puppies.

Adjustable Puppy Collars

You’ll have to buy multiple adjustable collars as your puppy grows. And it’s important, as it is even with adult dogs, to monitor the fit of his collar and make sure to adjust or replace it before it gets too tight. An easy way to determine whether a collar is too tight is to see if you can comfortably insert two fingers in the space between the collar and your dog’s neck; if not, he needs a bigger collar.

Safety and Security

The main purpose of a dog collar is to keep your dog safe and secure when he is outside your home. To this end, the collar should include the dog’s name along with your contact information, in case he gets loose and goes missing. This identification can be in the form of a tag or better yet, embroidered directly onto a personalized collar, since tags can fall off. Ideally, the ID information should be prominent enough so that it’s readable from a short distance in case your dog is lost and scared and won’t let anyone get too close.

In addition to his ID, make sure to attach his rabies and license tags because they’re also important if he goes astray; a sturdy metal D ring is critical for this purpose. As an additional safeguard, consider getting a reflective collar, so your dog can be seen in low light conditions.

There’s another obvious reason for a dog collar: to attach a leash securely, which also requires a rugged D-ring, adequately sized for this purpose. Again, not all dog collar hardware is made to the same standards, so it’s important to choose a brand that is known for its quality.

Durability

The collar itself should be made of high quality material with superior workmanship, so that it will not degrade or fail over time, no matter what kind of abuse your dog—and the elements—dole out. The buckle should be engineered to remain securely closed, except when you release it to remove the collar—which should be almost effortless.

Appearance

For some people, form is as important as function, which means the dog collar needs to look good and, ideally, represent your dog’s character, personality, and/or breed. Once again, quality and attention to detail is important. Vibrant colors and beautiful stitching should look good even after years of use.

There will be plenty of other decisions to make about dog supplies and accessories over the course of your dog’s lifetime, so be sure to pace yourself. Aside from food, nothing is as important as his collar. Investing some time early on to determine which dog collar is best for him will pay off in the long term.

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